Leadership is about creating high-performing and optimised teams who can efficiently and effectively deliver on those goals.
This is why team building is a crucial leadership capability, ensuring teamwork between employees. In this article, we’ll discuss the different strategies leaders can utilise to develop leadership skills that enable team building.
What is team building in leadership?
Team building in leadership is the process of creating and developing a team that works together towards a common goal. Team building and development is an essential capability for leadership, as leaders are responsible for building teams that work cohesively and productively together to achieve their goals and contribute value to the business.
What is the importance of team building in leadership?
Effective leadership is the backbone of a strong team, ensuring open communication, clear vision, and good working relationships. Leadership qualities like empathy and emotional intelligence, active listening, body language, and conflict resolution ensure a cohesive, successful team in which team members work together to deliver on KPIs and meet business priorities.
This is why team building and team-building activities are essential to good leadership: A cohesive team is more effective, productive, and agile. When great leaders encourage and build team spirit and values, teams (and individual team members) become more successful overall.
Team building ensures:
- Team collaboration and synergy. This is where team members collate their shared knowledge, skills and perspectives and use it to come up with new and innovative solutions to problems. Collaboration between team members can also increase productivity and improve outcomes.
- Adaptability and agility. A great team is more flexible when faced with challenges, allowing them to better adapt to and address issues. In fact, businesses with agile teams are three times more likely to become top quartile performers over organisations that don’t have the same kind of team values and cohesiveness.
- More efficient workflow. This doesn’t just mean productivity and performance. Efficiency also refers to streamlining all processes, including communication, delegation, and collaboration, so teams work faster together, minimise conflict, and increase trust.
- Better decision-making. Whether from more efficient collaboration, agility, or efficiency in workflow, successful teams are better able to express themselves and take diverse perspectives into account. This improves strategic decision-making and creates decisions that increase productivity, performance, and your bottom line.
- Increased employee engagement. A good team-building activity will increase employee morale and job satisfaction, making them more productive and lowering the rate of employee turnover. This means better business performance and lower recruitment and onboarding costs, improving your organisation’s bottom line overall.
Of course, this is only possible with effective leadership. The barrier to building relationships within teams is simple resistance to change, which can come about from a lack of trust in the leader or poor communication from them. This is why developing leadership skills is a crucial aspect of being a good leader.
Key strategies for team building in leadership
Team building is based on trust, which better enables communication, collaboration, and unity of purpose. These aren’t just leadership activities alone—individual team members also need to work on them. In other words, team building is a two-way conversation between team leaders and group members.
The only problem is that not everyone will be on board with engaging in that conversation. When your team building activities face resistance to change, trust, collaboration, communication and shared purpose are what will help to overcome those challenges. But how do you build those principles in the first place? Let’s take a look at six different strategies good leaders use to develop leadership capabilities and encourage team building.
- Define clear goals
- Promote diversity, communication and collaboration
- Identify and utilise strengths for optimised performance
- Foster a growth mindset with continuous capability development
- Provide continuous feedback
- Review and innovate team processes.
Define clear goals for teams to achieve
It seems pretty obvious, but this is the key to creating “unity of purpose”. Creating clear objectives helps teams understand what they’re working towards, and why. This is why clear goals are so useful when you’re facing resistance to change in the workplace (whether that’s resistance to team building and development, or something else entirely). For people to be open to change, they need to:
- Understand what stake they have in it (which could be as simple as their own self-improvement
- Have clearly defined goals and objectives
- Have clear, set deadlines to meet.
This eliminates ambiguity and empowers team members to align their efforts, expertise, and resources towards a common goal. Goals can be operational, developmental, or strategic (particularly when set by senior leaders or executives). Some goals you could set for your team to work towards are:
- Improving customer satisfaction by X amount
- Participating in development programs
- Streamlining processes for greater efficiency.
So let’s say you set a goal to improve customer satisfaction by a certain amount. When your whole team gets behind this goal, they’ll be more likely to function cohesively together to achieve it, becoming more purposeful in their actions and behaviours. This results in stronger bonds of trust, increased productivity, and better decision-making and task prioritisation into the future.
Promote diversity, communication and collaboration
The best leaders champion diversity and inclusion as part of their personal values and leadership style. Cultural inclusion starts from the top, so leaders at all levels should promote their organisation’s cultural values regarding diversity and inclusion in their own behaviour.
Inclusivity makes teams more efficient because it improves their productivity and performance. We mean cultural inclusivity here, not just inclusivity as a number, so simply hiring employees from diverse backgrounds isn’t enough. In fact, an unaccepting culture creates group dynamics in which diverse employees don’t feel valued or heard, which blocks effective communication and collaboration—and therefore, team bonding—from occurring in the first place.
This means dedicating time to diversity and inclusion initiatives (both personally and for the team as a whole), educating employees on diversity and inclusion (in terms of its importance and benefits) and taking time to create a level playing field for all employees, in order to create effective future leaders who will champion and embody diversity. You can do this with training in allyship, anti-racism, and bias, as well with cultural advocacy to create a culture more open to diversity and inclusion.
Diverse groups challenge conformity, creating an environment ripe for business innovation and potential.
Identify and utilise strengths to optimise team performance
Not every team member will have the same skills, nor the same competency in capabilities. This is where inefficiencies can occur and employee engagement and morale can drop. So, it’s a leader’s job to optimise team performance to ensure team cohesion is maintained.
A capability assessment can help you here. As a leader, you can assess employees’ competency—or proficiency—in important capabilities, which you can use to identify team members’ strengths and weaknesses. From there, it’s a matter of assigning team members work based on their strengths, allowing them to do what they’re good at.
This increases productivity, performance, and job satisfaction among employees as they have confidence in what they’re doing. It also builds trust, not just in you as their leader, but amongst the members of the group who rely on one another’s skills and expertise to achieve their shared goal.
Of course, leaders can’t just focus on strengths and ignore where their teams need development. That’s just a recipe for disaster in the long run, when market and industry demands change and leave behind the “old” what. A capability assessment is also used to identify weaknesses and prioritise training. Employees like it when leaders invest in their development—in fact, employee retention is increased as a result—so providing development opportunities is a sure-fire way to create happy employees and an agile, future-ready team.
Foster a growth mindset with continuous capability development
Capability development is crucial for both leaders and their teams, but it’s not possible without a growth mindset. People with growth mindsets believe that with hard work and training they can achieve success, and that even challenges and setbacks are just new opportunities to learn. Team leaders can model and demonstrate this mindset, creating a team culture that values learning and continuous improvement (and it also helps in your own leadership development, too).
So, to support a growth mindset, leaders should go out of their way to champion capability development through formal training, workshops, or offering coaching and mentorship opportunities. This shows team members that their leaders support their professional development, making them more likely to foster a growth mindset.
Provide continuous feedback
Of course, continuously building capabilities is impossible without leaders providing frequent, regular feedback. Leaders can help team members understand their strengths, areas for improvement, and how their contributions add value and align with team goals. This is why giving feedback (particularly constructive feedback) is an essential leadership capability to develop.
It works like this: Constructive feedback is most effective in what’s called a “feedback loop”, where feedback is given both from leaders and to leaders by their teams. Feedback loops can be created through one-on-one meetings between leaders and members, forums, team meetings, and also by having performance management embedded in day-to-day development. This increases team members’ trust in themselves and each other, while also helping to reinforce positive change in them as well as in their leaders.
Review and innovate team processes
Over time, team processes will have to change to match shifts in the industry or business environment. Maybe your business is scaling up, and your current processes are inefficient for a larger team size. Perhaps there are changes in technology or standards in the industry that affect a team’s day-to-day operations. Unchecked, this can lead to frustration, low engagement and morale, and decreased productivity, which is not conducive to team bonding.
Instead, leaders should continuously review team processes and innovate the most effective way forward to improve team building. You can do this by gathering feedback from your team members through meetings and surveys to understand their perspectives on existing processes and challenges. Using this information, leaders can identify the bottlenecks and inefficiencies to optimise. Having everyone in the team contribute feedback to process improvement and innovation builds a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration between team members, increasing efficiency into the future.
The impact of poor or no team building activities
Poorly executed team-building activities can be just as bad as not working on team building at all. The only difference is that poorly-done team building has also wasted money (and the valuable time of activity participants) which could have been put to good use elsewhere.
When team building activities fail, it’s usually because it’s a one-and-done event. Maybe your team has been sent to a one-time offsite experience where they can take part in a fun activity or leadership game. Or maybe you’ve had to take part in an event to build teamwork within the office space. Either way, the issue remains: Team building is a one-time event that ultimately doesn’t stick due to a lack of follow-up and review. In the end nothing changes, which is just as bad as if team building never happened at all.
Poor or non-existent team building activities lead to:
- Decreased productivity, from a lack of collaboration. Having little team building and rapport prevents effective collaboration from occurring, which in turn prevents teams from working efficiently and, therefore, from delivering on KPIs.
- Poor communication, not just within the team but between different teams as well. This just creates frustrations and misunderstandings between team members and leaves room for mistakes in cross-team projects, particularly when information gets lost in the process. It also creates data siloes between teams.
- High employee turnover. Bad team dynamics and a lack of rapport decreases employee engagement and morale, making it more likely that they will search for jobs elsewhere. A high turnover rate is not only expensive in terms of recruitment and onboarding, but also impacts productivity as remaining employees attempt to fill vacant positions.
Building a strong team is a crucial capability for leadership development. Teams that are capable of effectively working together can solve problems, achieve common goals, and deliver on team KPIs, bringing value to the business overall. This doesn’t have to be hard, though. There are six strategies leaders can implement to improve team culture, development, and cohesion.
- Define clear goals
- Promote diversity
- Identify and utilise strengths
- Foster a growth mindset
- Provide continuous feedback
- Review and innovate team processes.
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